With gun control being a hot topic in America lately, I began to wonder if owning a gun affects your safety or risk of being involved in gun violence. Many people who own guns do so for supposed self-protection, but what are the statistics on the subject? Are gun-owners actually safer than those who go without?
More than 1/3 of U.S. citizens, or around 300,0000 people, live in a household in which someone owns gun. In a 2014 gallup poll, 63% of Americans said they felt that having a gun in the house makes it a safer place. However, according to a 2014 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, those with household access to guns are 3 times more likely to commit suicide and 2 times more likely to be victim of homicide. Another national study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology stated that “regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.”
So what exactly are the risks and benefits of owning a gun? The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine broke this issue down in a 2011 study. Between 2003 and 2007, 680 Americans were accidentally or unintentionally killed by firearms. 2/3 of those deaths occurred in home according to data from the National Violent Death Reporting System. In suicides between 2003 and 2007, an average of 16,790 per year were committed with guns. In the same time period, 12,045 homicides per year were committed with guns. With so many deaths being caused from guns in households, how many times have they been used in self-defense effectively? The Violence Policy Center said that in 2012, there were, “259 justifiable gun-related homicides, or incidents in which authorities ruled that killings occurred in self-defense.” The LA Times published an informative article in which it compared this number to the 1.2 million violent crimes that were committed in 2012, making the number of actual utilizations of weapons for self-defense pale in comparison. Essentially, having a gun in your home means that a weapon in more accessible to anyone who enters- whether that be you or a family member or a complete stranger. While some people will always swear by keeping a weapon for self-defense, there are other methods of self-defense which may be as or even more effective. A study on the effects of victim action on the outcomes of crimes showed that people who used any type of self-defense method other than a gun were less likely to be harmed than those with guns.
The scientific community has come to the consensus that currently for the average person, the risks of owning a gun outweigh the possible benefits. Other factors such as the area you live in can affect your risks, however, so this advice is not necessarily true for everyone. Ultimately, it’s still up to the individual whether or not they chose to purchase a firearm and keep it in their home, but you can’t deny the statistics.